3 (Plus) Excellent Quotations On Insight, In Life And In Therapy. By Dr Linda Berman.

Quote 1.


Insight © Nina Tokhtaman Valetova.Wikiart.org.

“Unconscious insights or answers to problems that come in reverie do not come hit or miss… they pertain to those areas in which the person consciously has worked laboriously and with dedication.”

Rollo May

Reverie is a state of mind that is relaxed, silent, freeing and is perhaps best described as a kind of creative mind-wandering or imaginative daydreaming.

For a few moments, we can mentally retreat into our own world, allowing feelings and thoughts to drift by, without coming to any conclusions, but letting the process take its course.

Out of this, often emerges some new insight, based on allowing the self to drift to another level of consciousness.

As Rollo May says, the insight that is produced out of such reverie depends on much earlier, more conscious work on the self, usually in psychotherapy.

This became very apparent with a patient I had been seeing for about a year, a woman of around 30, whom I will call Sophie.(Permission obtained. Details changed considerably for confidentiality. Photo below is model from Pixabay)

She felt she was a ‘people-pleaser,’ a chameleon, feeling that she did not know who she was, what she liked and what she really thought about self, others and the world in general.

Sophie told me that she had remembered that she always felt that her father would spoil things for her, things she enjoyed, by criticising what she liked. She would excitedly show him a new toy, and he would subtly disparage it.

She remembered that he had said her new doll’s house, bought by an aunt, was poorly made. After this Sophie felt that “…the shine had gone from it. The brightly painted doll’s house suddenly looked shabby and drab.”


Then, having shared this with me, she was quiet, very quiet, for a full ten minutes. She had ‘gone into herself,’ remembering, imagining, in the kind of reverie state that May describes above.

We sat in silence, allowing her the space and time to process her new memory.

It took a while for her to be able to tell me that she had realised something important. Her powerful insight was that she now spoils things for herself, ‘dulling’ things that at first excite her.

Had it not been for the previous months in therapy, preparing the ground for such an insight, she would not have been able to reach this new understanding.

The work we had done together enabled her to get in touch with her authentic self, and to understand the concept of repetition of past experiences in the present. The insight meant that, in time, she was able to allow herself to enjoy more of the good things in her life.

Quote 2.


Closed Eyes – Odilon Redon.Wikioo.

“Shut your eyes and see.”

James Joyce

How can we see with our eyes closed?

What we can see, if we can risk looking, is our internal landscape. We live in two connected worlds, the inner and the outer.


Within our minds, we all have an internal landscape, a vast and complex interior world of our creation, both conscious and unconscious, a blend of many aspects, including memories, dreams, beliefs, imaginings, experiences, fears, thoughts and feelings.

We may see this as using our ‘third eye,’  our ‘sixth sense,’or ‘the mind’s eye,’  as we look within ourselves.

imageA Cambodian Shiva-head, showing the 3rd eye. Wikimedia Commons.

“Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.”

C.G. Jung


Interior Exterior – Roger De Grey. Wikioo.org

“Your vision will become clear only when you can look into your own heart. Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakes.”

Carl Jung

Jung is asserting that the only way we can see clearly and insightfully and wake up to reality is if we look inside ourselves, into our own psyche, and not only at the world around us.

Unless we know ourselves, we will see others, and the outside world, through a lens clouded by our own imaginings, projections and distortions.

In addition, we will be unaware of this bias, if we have not examined ourselves psychologically and gained insight about the inner workings of our mind.

Research has shown that real insight is related to good outcome in psychotherapy. Whilst insight in therapy is not the same as change, it can be a significant part of the change process.

Understanding one’s own contribution to the problems and grasping the links between past experiences and present feelings and behaviour may be important, yet such insight will not necessarily lead to change.

Unless this intellectual knowledge is felt and processed internally and is taken on board and worked on by the patient, it will not result in real change.

Unless the insight has revivified old feelings in the context of the relationship with the therapist, it will remain just that- a piece of intellectual information- at a head level only.


The Intellectual – Jury Annenkov. Wikioo.

“Intellectualized insight alone is not sufficient to result in positive changes.”

Alexander Lowen

Such ‘insight’ may, actually, be used as a defence against feeling, as focussing on it could be a distraction from real self-perception.

“What is necessary to change a person is to change his awareness of himself.”

Abraham Maslow


The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters. – Francisco De Goya. Wikioo.

“Our most important choice in life, according to Epictetus, is whether to concern ourselves with things external to us or things internal. Most people choose the former because they think harms and benefits come from outside themselves.”

William Irvine

If we choose to live unconsciously, unaware of the inner life inside us, then we are at the mercy of the universe, blown in the wind, lost.

We will be totally oblivious of other levels beneath consciousness. It is akin to ways of thinking that there are no such things as viruses or bacteria, because we cannot see them.

Many people live their lives believing only in conscious, rational thought, reacting ‘logically’ to the world around them.

In fact, there is a whole ‘other part’ of them, busily active, which they ignore or choose not to know about.


Inside Looking Out – Christian Holstad. 2000. Wikioo.

“Outside forces cannot make me feel successful. I have to feel it within myself. It is internal not external. That is why what often appears success externally may be total hollowness internally.”

Shiv Cherie

Looking for insight into the solutions to one’s problems outside the self can be a fruitless search.

“But deluded people don’t realize that their own mind is the Buddha. They keep searching outside.”


Quote 3

18700098016_0a524c336a_oKevin Dooley.  Insight. Flickr.

“We are surrounded by data, but starved for insights.”Jay Baer

A greater focus on insight is especially important in the 21st Century world, with its data-driven and fast-paced ways of thinking. Now all is facts, figures and statistics, quick-fix solutions and formulaic thinking.

Of course, data very much has its crucial place in terms of research and marketing, and technology has meant that data is now much more accessible. However, do we even know how to understand it all?  

We are bombarded with digital images, websites, apps, icons. They are everywhere around us. Where is the thinking, the insight? Where are the feelings?

Ours has become a short-term culture, demanding immediate gratification. In this rapid-fire, financially-pressurised, digital, competitive, fast-food, push-button society, we might wonder whether there is a place for the insight that comes from deeper thinking at all.

imageComputer 1965 – Boris Artzybasheff. Wikioo.

Distractions come from every direction, and there is an increasing need to centre on ourselves and on the deeper insights, on the powerful senses and gifts that we possess.

These can often be overlooked in the frenzy of a media-driven life.

There is little room, or respect, for deeper thought, for uncertainty, doubt, ambiguity, or wondering. This rapid technology-driven evolution of instantaneous and superficial answers may lead us into a precariously shallow and superficial state, lacking any deeper insights.

In the quotation above, the word ‘starved’ is used, suggesting that we are in danger of becoming deprived and in poor shape, health-wise.

imageUntitled (Hungry Soul) 1952 – Kattingeri Krishna Hebbar. Wikioo.

How can we ‘feed’ ourselves better, in order to stave off the dreadful hunger for insight?

The principle of waiting, of slowing down our thinking, of not-knowing, holds true here. Quietness, stillness and having space to think and, importantly, to feel, differently and imaginatively, are very much needed.

In this constantly moving world, beset by information overload, we need time to decelerate our thinking, allowing for reflection and for a meditative journey into the deeper reaches of ourselves, in order to discover real insights.

In reality, it is only through personal ‘introspection’, an exploratory journey into self-understanding, that we can discover how to ‘feed’ ourselves with real insights.

Psychological replenishment can occur, to replace our depleted stocks of real awareness. New insights can be found, amongst the piles of data, through life experience and through psychotherapy.


Looking Within. Kelly Birkenrith 2019. Gandalf’s Gallery. Flickr.

“The only journey is the one within.”

Rainer Maria Rilke

© Linda Berman

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